Illinois men’s golf not getting a spring break

By Ryan Wilson

Tweet: The @IlliniMGolf struggled at their last tournament, and their schedule isn’t getting any easier.

The No. 1 Illinois men’s golf team isn’t getting much relief after one of its worst finishes of the season.

The team is competing in the 54-hole Valspar Collegiate Invitational Monday and Tuesday. The University of Houston hosts the event at the par-71, 7,114-yard Floridian Golf Club in Palm City, Florida, along the St. Lucie River.

“It’s still spring, and it’s going to change quickly,” head coach Mike Small said on the Tay and J show Thursday. “We’re going to have to answer the bell (to the more challenging tournaments).”

Illinois is coming off of its second-worst tournament finish in respect to par this season, after carding a 23-over-par to place eighth in the Southern Highlands Collegiate tournament. 

The Southern Highlands Collegiate, saw a field of three teams from the top 10, eight from the top 20 and 17 from the top 50, according to Golfweek’s rankings. The Collegiate Invitational is not much different: Two teams (No. 2 Florida and No. 9 Florida State) are from the top 10, five from the top 20 and 10 of the 13 other competitors are from the top 50.

The top-ranked Illini will look to rebound after closing on higher numbers. 

“The bad tournaments are actually good tournaments for coaches, because then we get to actually coach them (the players),” Small said on the Tay and J show. “We had things so well when you’re No. 1 in the country and when we’re winning, people don’t want to listen, and guys think they got it figured out.”

Small gave his team one day to practice on its own because of classes and practices overlapping. Some of the team members practiced individually, while others went to the Lincolnshire Fields Country Club in Champaign.

“We’re happy the spring is here earlier now,” Small said on the Tay and J show. “We’re in good spirits.”

When Illinois played at the Palm City course in the same tournament in 2015, the team finished seventh overall, going13-over. The team posted rounds of 287, 293 and 285. 

The Illini finished 30 strokes behind winner Florida State who went 17-under.

“This was not a good tournament for us,” Small said after the 2015 tournament. “This is still early for us, so I would much rather have these issues exposed in March, so that we’re not dealing with them in May or June.”

This year, Illinois tees off at 8 a.m. Monday for a shotgun start and the first two rounds. The third and final round starts at the same time the next day.

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